Tasmania

Tasmania 077Happy new year everyone,

We hope you had a wonderful time during the holidays and that you had the opportunity to spend time with your beloved ones and also that you had time to relax.

I have began a post in November with couple of news in our life but I haven’t continued it since then. I promise to get back to it soon now that some things are settling down and there is more clarity. There is also my fifth Annual Review that is upcoming.

I want to dedicate this post to the recent trip in Tasmania that we just got back last Friday as it is still fresh in memory and I will be better able to relate to it. We have heard a lot of good things about Tasmania and because we love nature and that it is one of the remaining Australian unexplored area for us and flights during the holidays weren’t too expensive, we decided it was a good opportunity to go. Our plan was to do the whole tour of Tasmania by car while camping and exploring the most interesting area by hiking, walking, cruising and tasting (lot of local product in Tasmania!).

For a bit of background, Tasmania (known as Tassie for Australians) is that big island located 240km south of Australian continent toward Antarctica. Tasmania is considered relatively as an unspoiled natural environment where almost 45% of Tasmania lies in reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites. Tasmania isn’t much populated. There are about half a million people living on the Island, with around 200 000 living in the Capital Hobart and about 100 000 in Launceston, next is Devonport with about 25 000. Early settlers were mostly British convicts and their military guards, with the task of developing agriculture and other industries in the early 18th century. Many historical building remains of that era. Main industries are mining, agriculture, forestry, and tourism. Tasmania has a cool temperate climate with four distinct seasons with an average maximum of around 24 Celsius in summer (Dec-Feb) in Hobart and Launceston.

Hobart – December 24-25th

Provided you have booked couple of months in advance, Christmas eve or Christmas day are usually the most affordable time to travel during the holidays, otherwise it is somehow prohibitive. So, we flew to Hobart on December 24th in the morning through Melbourne (BNE-MEL-HBA). First flight with Qantas was great, the next one with JetStar was not. We couldn’t check-in our luggage straight to Hobart to we needed to pick our luggage in Melbourne and re do another check-in. It was extremely chaotic, no display board anywhere for information with JetStar only staff yelling in every direction and a huge line up, to the contrary of all other airlines. We finally checked in and and we arrived in the late evening an hour after departure.

We picked our car rental and went straight to check-in at our apartment hotel for the 1st night (St Ives Apartment) near Battery point. Hotel was good and very close by the interesting features of Hobart. We went straight for groceries for the next couples of days of camping as everything was closed on the 25th. Afterward we walked downtown to Battery Point and Salamanca to check out the port and for dinner. First thing we loved about Tasmania in summer are the long days. The sun only goes down around 9pm which is great as compare to Brisbane where everything is dark at 7pm (so not much after work life…).We also enjoyed the historic character of Hobart with the old building that reminded me of Quebec city (without the people and the vibe).

We had dinner at the Custom House Hotel where I had the best steak ever. A Wallaby steak (Kangaroo little cousin).

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The next day, we went exploring more of the city on foot. We joined a christmas lunch at the mall organised by few organisations after an invitation by one of the organiser. It was nice. After this, we took the car and drove up Mount Wellington near the city for a really nice view of Hobart. Unfortunately, the top of the mountain was sitting in the clouds so we couldn’t get a clear view. There are different walking trail possibles but we didn’t had the time to do it that day.

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We then drove to our camping spot for the night at Barilla Holiday Park not too far away from Hobart. We sat the tent up and there was a mini put available so we played a game before the office closed. Gabriela beat me up pretty badly with one awkward lucky hole in one shot over the rocks. We then went in Richmond closeby to check out some historic features of this little town. One iconic picture of this place is the oldest Bridge in Tasmania. It is Australia’s oldest bridge still in use.

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Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula – December 26th

We left the camping early and drove toward Port Arthur an hour away. We stopped at the following places/landmark Eaglehawk Neck lookout, Dootown (small town with funny house name), Tasman Blowhole, Tasman Arch, Devil’s Kitchen and Remarkable Caves.

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We then visited Port Arthur Historic site, which is an old British convict colony that was destroyed in the early 19th century by big bush fires. It is today a really interesting historic and tourism spot. We quite enjoyed it.

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In the afternoon, we went for a Cruise in the Tasman Peninsula exploring the rugged coast. It was really windy and the sea was quite choppy but the cruise boat was great and I didn’t feel thing. The tour was awesome, the guide was really good and the coastline was impressive. We saw tons of dolphins, seals, albatross in actions. Loved the experience.

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We camped at Port Arthur Holiday Park. The site was really good too.

Maria Island – December 27th

We left very early Port Arthur to drive up to Triabunna to catch the ferry to Maria Island.

Once disembarked we took the path leading to the Mount Maria hiking trail traversing a small and nice village that seems now to be unoccupied unless for tourists. We hike  the difficult track 15km ~5-6 hours (a.k.a the Hobbit track) up to Mount Maria. We called it the Hobbit track because it didn’t seem much in use and sometimes the bush was so dense we had to pass directly straight in the bush or underneath low branches. We saw an Echidnea on the way up and a snake, officially my first wild one after 4 years. We left it pass safely and continued our way up the track to a point where we needed to scramble big rocks for half a hour to the top (a little above 700 meters).  Interesting but difficult hike. On the way down we saw a wombat and a several big birds that we couldn’t really identify.

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We were a little rushed to catch the ferry back but we managed to stop at the 100 metre stretch of cliff named the Painted Cliff. Nature took millions of years to get these beautiful paintings. The erosion of cliff by the salt water led to the formation of these designs.

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Thereafter we drove to Rock and River free camp site in Coles Bay near Freycinet National Park. The camp site was relatively good however is was quite busy and noisy. It was such a intense day and we were really tired so it didn’t take long before we felt asleep anyway.

Freycinet National Park – December 28th

We clear the camp site early and drove toward Coles Bay little town to have a picnic breakfast near the bay with an open view on the park. Then we stop by the park visitor center to inquiry on camping sites available. Because it is the peak season, none were available but we could book a camping spot in Bicheno some 30-40min away from the park. Given the sun goes down so late (hurray!), this was not an issue at all.

Tasmania 056We started off the Wineglass bay trail and planned to return via Hazard Beach, which give a total of around 11-12km 4.5h hike. The trail was categorised by Australian standard as medium hard but honestly it was really easy. Perhaps because of the large number of people visiting the park. The park is one of the top highlight of Tasmania.

We stopped at Wineglass bay lookout for an breathtaking view on the bay and then descendent toward the Wineglass bay beach, supposedly one of the top beach in Australia. I can’t say I disagree but I prefer slightly Whitsundays and Thistle Cove in Western Australia. We relaxed and then walk along the entire length of the beach and I went for a swim in the cold Tasmanian waters.

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We walked back to our starting point via Hazard Beach. The walk was really enjoyable and less tiring the the hike on Maria Island, however Gabby had few blisters from the previous day that we a bit painful. A nice Australian hiker stopped by seeing this with his full health & safety equipment in hands, he patched it up nicely using a piece of camping foam mattress so that there would be not friction with the shoes. That solved the problem nicely and we continued our way on the pink granite trail overlooking Coles Bay. On the way back we came across a number of animals again including another snake that Gabby saw. A black one.

We drove to Bicheno and stopped on the way to the holiday park for supplies. We had trouble setting up the tent that evening as the wind was blowing were strongly (~40km). One of my tent pole broke.We decided to pack up the tent back in the camp in despair and went cooking dinner in hope the wind would somehow quiet down. Luckily after dinner it was not as aggressive and we parked the car in a way to block the wind for the tent. It worked quite well as we slept reasonably good.

Bay of fires – December 29th

We took our time to get ready in the morning as the facilities where busy. The wind was blowing once again and the forecast were not really good for the day (increasing wind to 50km and showers with little chance of thuderstorm. Provided the plan for our next night would be to camp near the beach, we gave ourselves a second though on the idea of perhaps booking an however for the night. However, by looking online there wasn’t much option available in the small town near Bay of Fires except some luxurious cottage that were out of price and only available when booking several nights. We though in last resort we could sleep in the car but having done this few times, we known it is uncomfortable, unless you have a proper car/wan for this, not a Nissan Pulsar (our rental) and provided you rented it month in advance!

We visited Bicheno blow hole and Whaler’s lookout in the morning after packing our gear.  The blow hole was much stronger than the other one visited in the Tasman Peninsula and we could start to see rocks with the red lichen that make Tasmania coastal landscape attractive.

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After this we drove to St-Helens close enough to Binalong Bay (Bay of Fires) in search for accommodation.  Most places were unfortunately fully booked but we managed to get one room at Tidal Waters Ressort. It wasn’t cheap but it was certainly better than a night in the car!

We then visited Binalong Bay in the beautiful Bay of Fires. We spend some time there just walking along the beautiful beach. The weather wasn’t that good, the waves were big and the current was strong, so I didn’t bother for a swim and stick to my camera instead. We completed the day tour by driving to The Gardens, another beautiful spot overlooking Bay of Fires.

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Launceston – December 30th

A long drive to Launceston was ahead of us that day with few interesting stop along the way. Along the very curvy and narrow road, we first stop at Holy Cow Café at Pyengana Diary Farm to try some good renowned cheese and stop for a coffee.

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Then we continued our way to St-Columba Falls and walked for about 20 minute through the very nice fern-lined gullies and rain forest until we reach Tasmania’s highest waterfall.

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The next stop in line was the Bridestowe Lavender Farm near Scottsdale. I was not deceived at all to stop there it was amazingly beautiful. The purple landscape was mixing well with the blue sky and the mountains behind. We had lunch there and tried few lavender made dishes including ice-cream. A must do stop.

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Tasmania 091After this we drove to our accommodation for the night to leave our bags and explore Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest city with around 100 000 people. We visited the huge Cataract George from there. This George was leading to a park and lagoon inside where people where spending family time. Peacocks and wallabies were freely walking all over the place. We decided to continue walking in the trails to Sentinel Lookout and then further to an abandoned power station. We ended walking there for several hours. Really enjoyable, not to miss if you are in Launceston as the town itself didn’t had much else to see really except some old buildings like the place we stayed at.

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We stayed at Leisure Inn Penny Royal Hotel & Apartments just next door to the Cataract George. The place was really nice and because we had to get closer to Cradle Mountain and do camping the following day I wanted something nice for the night to celebrate the upcoming new year. We went for fine dinning at Stillwater that night.

Tamar Valley Wine Tour – December 31th

This last day of 2014 was dedicated to fine product and wine tasting around the Tamar Valley of Tasmania. The first stop was to check out George Town and Low Head to the north. Similarly to Philip Island near Melbourne, Penguins, but this can only be checked at sun set but we needed to be close to Cradle Mountains for the stay so we only stopped for lunch.

Tasmania 117 Tasmania 118 Tasmania 119Then we stopped at the following vineyard : Goaty Hills, Tamar Valley Ridge and Stone rise. We stopped at few others but they were closed for the day. Wines were good especially the smokey Chardonnay we have bought at Goaty Hills. We though the wines in general were good but very dry.

Tasmania 120We slowly made our way in direction to Cradle Mountain to Lake Gairdner where I had spotted a nice free camp site online. We wanted to stop on the way to Railton to try the Seven Shed microbrewery but the manager was closing the gate (5:30pm) so we continued our way to Sheffield to check our the little town with murals. We though they have made a good job making this very small town attractive.

Tasmania 123 Tasmania 122 Tasmania 121 We drove by a really nice park at O’Neill Creeks and we decided to camp there for the night. The camping spot was provided by the local council and was only 5$ that you pay in a honesty box. We were by ourselves in a great place with a stack a wood provided and a fire place. Couldn’t ask for more really. Gabby wasn’t feeling good that night so she slept early but I stayed up until midnight with few beers and a fire. The sky was completely clear, there was no wind at all but the night was cold. Fortunately, we were well prepared.

Tasmania 125 Tasmania 127 Tasmania 128Cradle Mountains  – January 1st

We only had the time to clear the camp that it started raining. We made our way to the park entry at Cradle Mountain. It was raining a lot, it was cold, the wind was blowing strong and Gabby wasn’t feeling very good still. We were undecided on what to do but considering this is the top highlight in Tasmania we decided to do a first walk around Dove Lake for 2h and see how this turn out as the weather forecast were predicting that the showers would be less likely by mid day. We could always come back but there wasn’t much else to do in the area and we have booked the night at the camping site 2 min from the gate, where we were already.

In fact, the rain and the clouds were giving a special and mysterious atmosphere to the place, which we liked. We completed the beautiful and easy walk around dove lake. With our warm clothes and the rain jacket, it was still enjoyable at the end.

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Then we headed to the Lake Lila, the Wombat pool and the Wombat summit. We didn’t see any wombat there but only a crow who almost took our snack from our hands. Shaken but this attempt of burglary we continued our way to Marion lookout. By that time, the weather has changed slightly in our favor so we were alternating between taking on/off our rain jackets. The view from Marion lookout was stunning. This landscape was somewhat foreign to what we are used to in Australia.

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After the lookout, we took the Overland track back in the way of the parking at Dove Lake. By that time, the sky was getting clear and the sun was shinning. The track was beautiful and we passed by few puffy wombats on the way back, which Gabby enjoyed very much,as you can see below:

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Arrived at the parking, we decided we didn’t had enough. We couldn’t could back and do the Cradle summit at that time but we took the 6km boardwalk back to the visitor center. We walked that day for over 8 hours, our feet were tired but it was rewarding. Our highlight in Tasmania.

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We sat the tent back at the camp site and slept well. It was cold though, even for the peak of the summer. Temperature probably reached 4 or 5 Celsius.

Tasmania 155Back to Hobart, Brisbane  – January 2nd

We took our time in the morning as nothing was really planned for the day except driving back to Hobart and flying back to Brisbane in the evening. We decided to take the long drive back to Hobart by the West (5.5hours) thinking at least we can say we did the tour of Tasmania. The weather was great and the drive was really nice in fact with beautiful mountains, forests and farm land.

We arrived in Hobart just in time for our flight! Lesson learnt: You should always plan more time because the road is sketchy but also allow more time because Tasmanian drivers drive on average 30km UNDER the limit so not only they are very slow drivers (with reason sometimes) but it is also very difficult to pass anyone on the narrow and curvy road!

Once more, we were flying with JetStar and the experience has been really good. First, check in was horrific with a huge line up and improvised check in services, second the flight was delayed by more than an hour and third they couldn’t make our registration until Brisbane. We had to pick our luggage in Melbourne to re-check in again at the counter with the same company. Because they were so late, we rushed like madness to pick our bags, walk to the other end of the terminal to re-check in our same bags and than walk back to the JetStar departure gate. It is completely absurd but as JetStar staff mentioned to me when I complained about this:

“Jetstar is a LOW VALUE company.”

Not sure this was intended but I could agree more with this!!

Nevertheless, we arrived in Brisbane and made our way safely back home using Uber services! Almost half price from a taxi and we were driven in an Alfa Romeo with a bottle of water and some mentos for each. Quite good! The JetStar frustration was gone and our mind was filled with good memories of the trip we just completed!

Tasmania, thank you very much,

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Hike for Life An Incredible journey to Africa – Part III The Beach

G’day readers,

Following our challenge that we completed to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, our tired bodies were guiding us naturally toward a more relaxing week in a calm and peaceful scenery. What’s better than beautiful beaches and turquoise water to accomplish this!

August 11th – Transfer to Zanzibar

We flew that day from Kilimanjaro Airport to Zanzibar. Benoît and Eloise had left earlier in the morning and Komivi, Gabby and myself took another flight later in the afternoon. We arrived in Zanzibar around 7pm at night and already had our driver awaiting us at the Airport. We drove through the Island from the West to the East coast up to a small fishing and kitesurfing village named Paje. The air was definitely warmer and more humid than the previous week inland. The scenery was also quite different as Zanzibar is Muslim compared to the main land which is more mixed and mostly Christian.

We reach our accommodation, Hakuna Shida Guesthouse, in Paje around 9pm and went out nearby to explore the beach at night and we had few drinks and dinner at the bar next door (Paje by Night). The place ran by expats, was quite nice and modern, although it was relatively quiet with only few travelers were sipping their drinks.

August 12th – Zanzibar – East side- Paje

We woke up after a good night of sleep to the side of the beautiful white beaches of the Indian Ocean. This part of the trip wasn’t particularly planned ahead and the next couple of days were not really organized, we had only a list of few highlights to checkout.

Tanzania Zanzibar 020We had breakfast at the guest house and met with Jorge the Peruvian hotel manager and went by the beach to see the surrounding and checkout things to do for the next couple of days. The beach was magnificent. It was low tide and the shore was going far into the sea. The water was warm and the breeze also was. It was good! There were few kite-surfers around grasping every pocket of air and shattering the waves.

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We were quite productive for a relaxing day and organised the next day dive trip, we booked a blue safari tour. Inspired by the action going on outside Benoit booked a session of kite surfing. We also organised a BBQ on the beach and rented a car to go around and explore the big island, everything was negotiated intensively with Komivi our African expert!

We took the car and went visiting the Jozani Forest for its Red Columbus Monkeys and the mangroves and forest about half an hour away from Paje to the West.  A local guide brought us in the forest where we could observe these monkeys, who can only be found on Zanzibar. Another interesting feature of the place was that the ground was covered with old coral stones. This indicates that Zanzibar was at some stage in history under the sea level. The forest was nice and dense. We drove back to Paje afterward and stop by the  supermarket to get some booze for the BBQ on the beach.

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Tanzania Zanzibar 126As promised by the local fishermen, they prepared a fresh seafood BBQ and spice rice for us on the beach. It was honestly really nice! Food was delicious and fresh and the ambiance given the  fire on the beach was awesome. We stayed for some time discussing with the local and exchanging on culture. We appreciated the fact that Paje was still at the early stage of touristic development and the sentiment of the locals toward tourists in general were still really good, bringing a little economic boost to the place but without transforming it tremendously, at least as of yet.

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August 13th – Zanzibar – East side – Paje – Diving

We had breakfast and then Benoît went masterising the art of kitesurfing. In the meantime, we decided to go and explore the south eastern coast of Zanzibar. We drove for about half an hour on the coast and parked in a small village. We then walked on the beach exploring the local area. The beach was really nice. Tide was low, villagers where fishing and collecting shells on the beach.

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We drove back to Paje just in time for the Diving trip we booked with Buccaneers Diving. The sea was getting more agitated as we were riding away from the shore. The first dive was good but not exceptional. Corals were nice, plenty of fishes and the visibility was great, but nothing I haven’t see in my previous dives in Australia, Vanuatu, Indonesia or PNG (which are all diving paradise, so our standards are high!). The sea was getting more choppy and we were all starting to feel it. I was probably the worst among the 4 of us, as usual. After an hour of surface time between our 2 dives getting hammered by the waves, we finally got in back to the water. The water was still quite agitated and a jelly fish stun Gabby. We panicked a little not knowing what type it was and the dive master wasn’t really caring too much. We descended in the water quickly where the situation improved significantly. The dive was very similar to the previous one with a big wall. Even down at 15m we could feel the sea moving. We completed our dive and went back to the boat. We took off our gear and got back to quieter water as we were approaching the coast.

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Tanzania Zanzibar 138We met with Komivi back at the beach and went preparing for our second BBQ on the beach with Captain Kitete. He prepared us a nice BBQ too with another fire on the beach. Some of his friends joined and played music with us, drum and guitar. We also meet with another guy from Vancouver, Canada. A mountain tour guide who climbed the Everest and the K2 several time. Quite impressive. It was another good night.

Tanzania Zanzibar 030August 14th – Zanzibar – South West side – Blue Safari

For the next day, we had booked a tour for a Blue Safari on the South West side of the Island. We departed with few other people in a Dhow boat, a traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Indian Ocean region. To the contrary of the previous day, the sea was really quiet and the ride was enjoyable. The colour of the sea was beautiful.

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The tour was including few Island visits. The first was a sand bank. It was quite nice but heavily visited by tourist. We did some snorkeling. The next one was larger, with interesting features, such as a very old and massive baobab tree and nice coral reefs. The effect of the tides over time on the islands was stunning. Rock were carved by the sea, at the point that you would have trouble understanding how some of the smaller rocks could still remain standing!

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On the way back, we sailed the entire way. It was quite pleasant. Arrived back at our guest house, we prepared our stuff for our last night and dinner all together. We then went to Paje by Night for a drink or two.

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August 15th – Transfer to Zanzibar

We all left early in the morning so that Benoît and Eloïse could catch their flight to France and Australia. As for us, we drove to our hotel in Stonetown to check in and drop our bags and then went on a Spice tour to discover some farm land around where they cultivate a range of spices for which Zanzibar is famous for.

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The tour was quite interesting and we bought couple of ingredient to do our own version of the delicious spice rice back at home. Could you guess what are the ingredients above? Among other, you should be able to identify Turmeric, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, and Vanilla. We even had some demonstrations of acrobatic skills by a guy climbing that huge coconut tree bare foot and doing some free style pose in the air, without too much of a safety net or fears.

After the spice tour, we went on foot exploring Stonetown. We were very surprised by the city that has a different feeling than all we have seen  in Tanzania so far. First by its people as it was predominantly Muslim and by its mixed Persian and Indian influence and architecture (doors especially). We went exploring on foot around town where scooters, bikes and people all shared narrow alleys and buzzing streets. We visited the slave markets (*sigh*) that was active until it was abolish early 1900, old churches and other crafts  markets.

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We finished our walking tour at the city port for sunset. There was a lot of things going on, families hanging around, a night street food market, different people performing street acrobatics or music and the most interesting one some youth running and jumping off the ledge of the pier in the clear waters.

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We had a couple of drinks looking at sunset and listening to Jazz music and then we had some fresh seafood. We came back early that night, pretty exhausted from the day of walking.

August 15th – Transfer to Zanzibar

We had breakfast on the roof top of the hotel we were at for our last day in Tanzania. Komivi left early in the morning for his flight back to Canada. Our flight was  scheduled for 1pm. We took the opportunity to see more of Stonetown and got back to serious business looking for the “precious”, that ring that I didn’t carry with me on the Kilimanjaro! Unless you looking for Tanzanite (a gem apparently unique to Tanzania), I couldn’t find anything nice enough for Gabby’s hand. Therefore I decided to pass on the opportunity for now and keep looking once we are in Singapore, the last leg of our journey.

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Tanzania Zanzibar 089Arrived at Zanzibar airport, the fun was over with all the chaos and the disorganization of the place. We also learned that our flight was delayed for initially 1 hour, that turned slowly into 2 hours and then 3 hours. That squeezed our time at Dar es Salaam for our international flight to Doha and Singapore but finally managed to make it okay. Well almost, as my luggage got lost when we arrived in Singapore!

Thanks for readings,

Pascal & Gabriela

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Hike for Life An Incredible journey to Africa – Part II The Kilimanjaro

Tanzania Kilimanjaro 045.JPGJambo!!

Rich of our experience from the Safari, we were very excited and also nervous for the big 7 days challenge coming ahead. As I mentioned in the previous post, other than raising funds for Breast Cancer through the Hike For Life project, the Kilimanjaro was the main focus and challenge of this epic journey.

Other than the long drives and the bumby roads, the Safari hasn’t been very challenging physically, but we know that the adventure we were about the start would be completely different. One of us, to not name anyone, was particularly troubled with the quality of the restroom along the way, other were with altitude sickness 🙂

Climbing to the summit takes usually between 5-6 days depending on the route. The  Kibo summit at 5895m remains covered with snow throughout the year and is the highest point in the world that can be reached without any technical or life-supporting facilities. The more days, the higher the possibility to conquer the summit. This is why we have chosen to do an extra day of acclimatisation to reduce the risk of altitude sickness. The Kilimanjaro comprise in fact of 3 volcanos, the Kibo (5895m), the Mawenzi (5149m) and one extinct Shira (3962m).  It was establish in 1973, officially opened for tourism in 1977 and it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.

Here is the complete story…

August 4th – Day 1 – Machame

We woke up early that morning to finish packing our stuff for the climb, have a good breakfast at the Oasis Lodge and meet up with our guide for a briefing. The equipment for the climb was completely different than from the Safari. From light hiking shirt to full winter gears we had to be prepare to face a harsh climate, as freezing as minus 20 Celsius. Which is to be honest of a second nature for a Canadian but after nearly 4 years in Australia, I have lost some of this raw resistance to cold! We didn’t have all the necessary gear such as winter sleeping bags, winter coat and pants, so we stopped by a rental shop for checking out what we could find to ease our experience with this “exotic” climate. Gears was quite beaten up but we  managed at the end to find what we needed, after some time negotiating and bargaining.

Soon after, we departed for the Kilimanjaro National Park about 1 hour and a half from Arusha near Moshi through the Chagga Village to the start of the Machame route or the “Whiskey Route” as they name it locally. We had lunch near the entrance of the park meanwhile our guide James Boniface and his assistant Jackson and our cook Renatos (same as for the Safari!) gathered the troops at the gate. This was pretty impressive in fact. There was a large number of tourist, larger than what I was expecting, and a huge number of locals awaiting for a tour to take them as porters. We had 17 porters in total just for us 5. Each porters is allowed to take 20kg of equipments including 5 kg for themselves. Seventeen porters seems a lot but when you consider the amount of equipment necessary for the 7 days expedition you soon realise that it is not that many. Most of them carry  heavy things like water tank on their shoulders or heads.

It took some time obtaining all the necessary permits with the local authority before we were able to leave, but we finally left around 2pm and started the ascent from the entrance at 1800m. The total length of the hiking trail from Machame to Mweka gate is over 62km. We left the park gate and walk through the Rain Forest on a winding trail to the first camping site, the Machame Hut at 3100m, where we were to spend the night.

It was raining slightly and the trail was quite muddy. The vegetation around was very dense and beautiful, rubber forest, giant ferns, begonias, ficus and giant heathers. We observed some blue Monkey on the way at the start. Already, our guide was creating the pace for us. “Pole”, “Pole” we could hear all the time (this mean Slowly in Swahili).

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We arrived quite late at the camp site (7pm), it was already dark, cold and very humid. A dense mist was surrounding the camp site and it was difficult to find our way around. The porters installed our tents and the other camp stuff. Tents were quite small considering the large amount of gears we had but we manage to get somehow comfortable after some struggle to fit everything in! We changed (its important you wearing dry and warm clothes at this stage) and we had a good and plentiful dinner. Before going to our tent for the night, we experienced the restroom where you need to squat and aim for the hole while trying to avoid the remains of others on the ground. You also feel the freezing breeze passing pleasantly between your legs! Delightful. The night was cold but we managed to sleep reasonably well.

August 5th – Day 2 – Shira Plateau

We woke up to the first light of the day. The ground was still frozen. We had breakfast and we packed up our gear for the second day. It was a nice and sunny day. Once the sun rose, it was not necessary anymore to wear so many layers. Although, it is quite important to put some sun cream because at this altitude, your skin burn easily. As we were on our way, the porters who left after us because they packed up the camp, walked quickly by us. They’re objective was to reach the next camp site on Shira Plateau quickly to set up the camp and everything and relax before we get there.

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The hiking trail was very different from the previous day. Leaving the “glades of rain forest” we followed a steep ridge, which veers west, and gradually ascend the Shira Plateau for around 5-6 hours. Eco systems changed slowly to moorland with shorter and more alpine vegetation and we had an open view to the horizon where lie a indefinite bed of clouds.

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From late June through September, it is the dry season, during which the nights are cool and the days usually completely clear. Still, the climate can change very quickly with dense clouds or mist forming and changing immediately the temperature, therefore you always need to have some additional layers at hand.

We reach the Shira campsite at an altitude of 3,840 mtrs after a beautiful day hiking. The camping site was vast, with a helicopter pad in the middle. There was many hikers like us, probably a few hundreds. We had a fantastic Sunset over Mt Meru in the distance.

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We had good dinner, clean ourselves as much as we could with wet wipes and we slept early. The next day was a long hike for the acclimatisation day.

August 6th – Day 3 – Lava Tower – Acclimatisation day

That day was the acclimatisation day with around 7-8 hours of walking. We left the Shire Plateau Camp shortly after another great breakfast. I could recharge overnight the GoPro and the Camera with the solar panel I’ve bough for the trip. The weather was fantastic with a clear view with of Kibo summit and its glaciers on one side and the ocean of clouds on the other with the shy Mt Meru pointing upward in the horizon, like an iceberg in the deep.

Tanzania Kilimanjaro 054.JPG Tanzania Kilimanjaro 002 Tanzania Kilimanjaro 019.JPGWe walked east on the plateau, following the trail leading to the Lava Tower up at 4600m. This was a long walk, not as step as the previous day but constant. Eloise had trouble the previous day with the altitude and this one wasn’t better. Headaches and migraines were causing her to go slow and struggle a little bit more. On the opposite, we were lucky and beside a bit of a shortness of breath and slight headache at Lava Tower for Lunch we were mostly fine.

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After lunch, our path was going down toward Karanga hut beside a glacial stream. It took few hours to reach the camp there. We had superb views of the Southern Ice Cliffs and the Breach Wall.

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The night was once again quite cold but our guide James organised to heat up some water to fill our bottles and to put the warm bottle inside our sleeping bags. This was a great idea and worked well.

August 7th – Day 4 – Great Barranco Wall

Another fantastic day was ahead of us. A challenging one as the first objective was to pass and climb through the intimidating Barranco Wall.

We scramble to the top of the Great Barranco without difficulty and traverse over scree and ridges beneath the ice falls of the heim kersten and decken glaciers. After a steep pull out of the Karanga Valley we ascend the ridge leading to the Barranco Camp. This was the most rewarding and exciting day so far, the view was phenomenal with a good dose of adrenaline scrambling up the wall.

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The camp site was well located at 4483m with a awesome view of Uhuru peak . We played a some card games and did a light painting photo shot before going to bed. We needed to sleep well because the following night would be quite short.

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This was the last day before reaching the summit and a shorter one because we needed some rest before the final ascent. The walk from Baranco to Barafu was pleasant and not very difficult with  very interesting view of the peak on one side and valleys and canyons on the others.

Our guides Noah, James and Jacksons had a hard time managing our desire to walk at a greater pace! We pushed ourselves a little more that day and did some yoga once we reached the camp site at 4600m. To the right, there was the majestic Mawenzi peak sitting in the distance.

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We unpacked our stuff and sat down for the remaining of the afternoon playing card games, relaxing and eating. Th aim was to go to sleep at around 5-6pm as we we needed to get ready for ascending the summit by midnight that night. For the first time, we could leave our gears in the tent but it was required to wear many layers as the temperature that night and for the climb would be around -15 to -20 degree Celsius.

August 9th – Day 6 – Kibo Summit

As planned, the night was very short but we were excited to attempt the final ascent to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, our utmost reason to be here and a dream to accomplish.

We packed some of our gear for the climb but the tents remained there along with all the porters. We had quick breakfast and put on the beanie, gloves and warm pants. We were ready to go with our 3 guides James, Noah and Jackson. The sky was clear, the moon and the stars were bright indicating us the path where to go. Our minds were ready!

The climb winds on the slopes until the foot of Ratzel and Rebman glaciers, between which engages the track. The slope was steep and the ground was soft from the ancient volcano’s ash making it harder to walk up. Strangely, we were having a fast pace passing by groups and groups of hikers. There was vomit trace on the ground here and there from people having a hard time! Our hands, that were holding firmly our walking poles, were literally freezing, requiring the help of heat pads alternatively with putting our hands in our armpit in search of heat!  We are exhausted, dizzy and beside all effort to make every deep breath, our lungs were only grasping a few bit of oxygene in the tiny air but we kept on pushing higher and higher. The atmosphere was surreal in the middle of the hanging glaciers.

After about 5 hours of walk, we arrived on the edge of the crater at Stella point. Our hearths were pounding, we were completely exhausted but fulfilled with joy knowing the hardest part was now behind us. We stopped for a short moment, we were cheerful, everyone made it so far. It is an emotional moment. We carried on for about half an hour of walk on the volcano’s crest to reach Uhuru Peak at 5, 895 mtrs – the roof of Africa, with fine views of Mt. Meru to the west and the Jagged Peak of Mawenzi to the east. The view is incredible, just in time for the sun rise about 5:45am. We were in the first couple of groups to reach the summit.
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To make this moment even more memorable and to cross another item on the bucket list,  I proposed Gabriela to be my wife. She said yes but conditionally on a ring, which I didn’t had with me at that time. It was an happy moment for everyone.We stayed about 20min on the top celebrating our success before starting to descend back to Barafu camp. Because of the altitude, the wind and the cold weather, you we couldn’t stay any longer there. The descend was hard, almost harder than going up. The ground was soft making it relatively safe to take large foot step but it was steep and we were very tired. Our group separated a little with me and Komivi at the back at the edge of collapsing, taking regular breaks as our legs were not responding anymore.  Gabby disappeared ahead with Noah guiding her as they descended fast.

We arrived at Barafu camp around 10-11am. Gabby was already there awaiting us. We collapsed on the chair awaiting our arrival. Everyone was tired, but personally, I can say I have never been tired like this in my life. I couldn’t respond to any mental or physical stimulus, I could barely sit steadily. We only had time for a short break (1h) before tea and lunch. The rest was necessary and good. Then another 4 hours ledge of descent ahead of us to reach Mewka camp at 3000m.  The short break and the food gave us back enough to get to our destination. In total that day, we have climbed up and down for over 4000m and walked more than 13hours. The night was a blessing. It would also be the last night in a tent and also the last day without taking a shower!

August 10th – Day 7

The landscape changed drastically once again from the previous day has we got back to the rain forest. The day was mostly clear. We had the last breakfast together with the crew and started our descend earlier than usual at sunrise in order to avoid the crowd and the waiting time at the gate. The view wasn’t as open and spectacular as on the Machame route but the descent through the lush forest was pleasant.

Our legs were tired from the adventure. We reach the Mweka gate before lunch time. This was mission accomplish for Hike for Life. We all reached the summit and also reached (and surpassed) our fund raising objective for Breast Cancer raising a total of 2850$.

We signed up at the gate and received our certificate of accomplishment.  We celebrated the experience with the whole crew and danced on the rythme of the Kilimanjaro song (Jambo Buena). We stopped on the way for lunch with the guides and have a well deserved beer! Then we were on our way back to the Oasis Lodge for the most delightful hot shower ever. We spend the rest of the day relaxing.

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Summary

The Kilimanjaro was our first multi-days excursions on a mountain and certainly not the last one. Of course, comfort was a little scarified but the experience it itself was fully rewarding. Spectaculars views and a great sentiment of accomplishment. The expedition crew were very well taking care of us. James, Jackson, Noah, Renatos were extremely nice and pleasant the share the experience with. A couple more checks on the bucket list, another experience of a life time!

  • Very spectacular landscapes all the way, with 6 day above clouds
  • Changing vegetation, beautiful variety
  • Exceptional weather (we were lucky)
  • Kibo Summit and its glaciers
  • The ascent of the summit
  • Proposing Gabby
  • Strong emotions of accomplishment and exhaustion
  • Service offered was great, once again we were very well taken care of (James and Jackson were phenomenal host)
  • The Kilimanjaro song
  • More people on the mountain than I was expecting it
  • Newer building for the toilets are actually worst than the rustic wood shack!

If you ever think about doing the Kilimanjaro, we would highly recommend James Boniface as a local guide, click here for his details.

Part III on Zanzibar coming soon….

Thanks for readings,

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